This story first appeared on another website and I had some difficulty remaining in contact with it. It is basically finished. I suppose it could have gone further, but I lost momentum.
In the fall, I’m starting my first year of medical school. I’ve dreamed of being a pediatrician since I was a little girl and I’m getting ready to make that dream come true. I got great grades in school and had a “full ride” so my mom and dad said they could pay for me to go to one of the best med schools in the U.S.
Since all of my friends have already begun their careers I thought it might keep the summer moving if I found a job. I always loved looking after kids, so I put my name and resume into a childcare agency. One of the nice things this agency does for the caregivers, is that it lets us pick where to go for interviews. The first potential client seemed perfect for me. Kevin O’Neil, age 15 months, only child; full time care from June 20-August 20, lived in nice neighborhood, family had a country club membership that I could use and the money was great. I’d be leaving for Med School on August 25, so it seemed like a great way to keep from dying of boredom for the summer.
So, off I went to Mrs. O’Neil’s place. It was a big, beautiful colonial house. When Mrs. O’Neil greeted me, she seemed a bit older than the mother of a 15 month old, but I’ve met some older moms before. We spoke for about an hour and a half. She explained that her husband had died the previous year and then her job transferred her here just a couple of weeks ago. I said that was a rough year for her, especially with a young son. She smiled sadly and said that it was, but Kevin is a good boy and didn’t really give her any trouble. (I liked how that sounded.) Kevin, she said, was a bright, friendly boy who was full of energy but a bit small for his age.
Her job made it necessary for her to go overseas for the summer and it was impossible for her to bring Kevin with her. The cleaning lady was only part time and wasn’t really suited to look after Kevin which is why she came to my agency.
I said I understood how difficult the situation could be for her and told her that I was fully equipped to take care of her little boy. I said I would make sure that he had stimulation everyday and plenty of rest. Trips to the zoo and the aquarium and that I had been trained in preparing nutritious but delicious food for children. She smiled at me a little strangely and said, “Well, that’s great.” But, I said, before we go any further, I’d like to meet him. I had packed a really cute little stuffed puppy that I thought might help me win him over.
She said, that Kevin wasn’t feeling well because of a really bad summer cold and allergies. The medicine the doctor had prescribed really knocked him out so he was having a little nap. I said that’s ok we don’t need to wake him then, could we just go up to have a look? Again, the strange smile when she said OK.
She led me upstairs to Kevin’s room. She opened the door a little and peaked in to make sure he was asleep. She walked into the room and I heard some talking. Mrs. O’Neil came out and said, it’s OK, he’s awake and would like to meet you. I put on my biggest smile and walked in to see little Kevin.
I stopped dead in my tracks. Instead of a toddler lying in a crib, I saw a boy sitting up in bed with an ipad on his lap and headphones clamped on his neck. I said, “Where’s Kevin.”
“Right here,” Mrs. O’Neil said.
“I thought he was 15 months old.”
She laughed, “No, he’s fifteen years old, but that explains why you were talking about him the way you were.”
I went into my bag and took out the papers from the agency and looked over them. They clearly said that Kevin was 15 months old. I showed them to her and she laughed again. “Well, he is small for his age, but not that small.”
“Mom! Stop talking about me like I’m not here.” Kevin spoke up for the first time.
“I’m sorry, sweetie.” His mom said with a wicked little grin. “Kevin, let me introduce Carolyn. She might be staying with you this summer while I’m out of the country. Carolyn, this is my little boy Kevin.”
“Hi, Carolyn. It’s nice to meet you. Mom can be sooo weird. Sorry about not coming down to meet you, but the medicine really makes me tired.”
“It’s Ok,” I said, “I understand.”
“You get your rest, Kevin, Carolyn and I need to talk.” Mrs. O’Neil said. “I’ll see you at dinner,” she added as she kissed him on his forehead. He squirmed but smiled as she did this. “I think you might have a fever, I’ll be back in a little bit to take your temperature.”
We went back to the living room and Mrs. O’Neil laughed. “Well, I can see Kevin isn’t what you were expecting. But if you can put up with the disappointment of not having a toddler to look after, I think you would be great. Kevin’s eyes lit up as soon as he saw you. I think he might even have a bit of a crush on you.”
I thought for a moment and then I said that I’d love to do it.
“Great, now let me tell you a bit about the care and feeding of Kevin O’Neil…”
So, Mrs. O’Neil started off by telling me that I should call her Terri and I let her know that only my grandma called my Carolyn, everyone else called me Carrie. With that out of the way, she started to explain a little bit about Kevin. We talked about a bunch of things and then the conversation got interesting.
She said, “Kevin was born a bit premature and only weighed four and a half pounds at birth. It was a good two weeks before we were able to take him out of the hospital. He’s always been small since then. The doctors said he’d catch up, and he’s had a few growth spurts lately, but he is still only about four feet tall and only ways about 60 pounds. The child development charts say he’s about the size of your average 9 year old.”
“Is he sensitive about his size?” I asked.
“No, not really. His dad was short, only about 5’ 4” and I’m only about 5’ 2" myself so he didn’t feel bad about being little. We joke about it a little bit, but it never really was an issue. Part of is that he’s a great athlete."
“Really?” I asked surprised.
“Oh sure, you know football, ultimate fighting, that sort of thing.”
“Wow, you’re gullible,” she laughed. “No, he does do karate and has a brown belt but his real sport is gymnastics. He’s small but it’s all muscle. In fact, next week is his last formal practice for the summer. Then the studio goes on vacation. It’s the day before I leave, so I can still take him to it.”
“That’s cool. I did gymnastics when I was little, too and I loved it. What’s his event?”
“He’s great in all of the ones the boys do, but his specialty is floor exercises. When he’s feeling better ask him to do a back flip for you.”
“I will. I’d like to see that. He reminds me a bit of my little brother when he was that age.”
“Fifteen, you mean?” She asked with a grin.
I blushed a bit, “Oops, no I meant when he was 9. I’ll have to be careful about that. But he has the same blue eyes, the same freckles and the same strawberry blond hair Mikey has. He really is cute.”
“I wanted to mention this, but you look like you could be his big sister, or maybe even an aunt. I think that’s going to make it easier for him to handle having a babysitter for the summer. He can say that he’s got a cousin keeping an eye on him.”
“You mentioned that he had a special diet.”
“Yes, he has celiac disease. Do you know what that is?”
“Yeah, one of my roommates in college had it. She had to be careful to avoid anything with gluten and we had to be careful not to contaminate her food with anything we brought in.”
“That’s right. Kevin knows what he can and can not eat. I’ve had him be responsible for that since he was young and he’s very good about it. The only special thing that I’d need you to do is make him a special oatmeal in the morning. He’s kind of a zombie before he eats. Then, take him shopping with you. He knows what to buy.”
“No problem. Anything else?”
“This is a little sensitive, but it’s important and I’d understand if you change your mind about this summer after you hear it. But, since you were looking to babysit a toddler…”
“What is it?”
“Kevin isn’t dry at night and needs to wear pull ups to bed.”
“Oh.” I said.
“Is that a problem?”
“No it isn’t at all. That little brother I mentioned, he’d kill me if he knew I said this, but he had the same problem until he was 12. So, I’m not freaked by it or anything, but is Kevin okay with me knowing about this. With my brother it was only mom and dad and me. Even my older siblings who were out of the house were in the dark about it.”
“Well, we talked about it and he wasn’t thrilled about telling you, but he saw if you were going to be living here you’d probably find out anyway and we both thought it would be better if it were out in the open. Besides. they aren’t diapers and you won’t be changing him. He takes care of all that himself.”
We hammered out some other details and then made an appointment to go to the agency to take care of paperwork the next day. There were releases and waivers to sign and she had to authorize me to make medical decisions for Kevin while she was abroad. When all that was out of the way, it was just about a week until I moved my stuff into the house for the summer.
Terri was leaving on June 25 for Britain and the plan was that I was going to move in on to 20th to get settled and see how the routine worked. When I rang the door that afternoon, it opened immediately and Kevin was standing there, smiling shyly. He held out his hand and said, “Hello, Carolyn. Welcome to our home. May I help you with your luggage?” It was too cute, he clearly had rehearsed what he was saying, trying to act mature. I think he really did have a crush on me. So, I replied very formally, “Good afternoon Kevin. Thank you for meeting me.” Then I giggled and he started to blush and giggle too. I kissed him on the cheek and said, “Call me Carrie. I think we’re going to get along great.”
He helped me bring my bags into my room. I think he would have asked me if he could help me unpack if his mom hadn’t come by and shooed him away. She said, “Thanks for helping Carrie, Kevin. Now beat it for a while so that Carrie and I can have some girltalk.”
“I’ll see you at dinner, Carrie.” He said as he stuck out his tongue at his mother. She laughed as she swatted at his backside, and he deftly dodged her.
“Are you all set to look after my little monster?” She asked once Kevin was heading down the stairs.
“I think so. He was so cute when he met me, he really tries to act like a grownup. I think we’re going to have a lot of fun.”
“You’re not disappointed about watching a teenager instead of a toddler, are you?”
“Honestly, a little. But this will probably be easier.”
“I was thinking, Kevin doesn’t have too many friends here just yet. We’ve only been here a couple of weeks and he really just knows the kids from gymnastics. I didn’t start him in school when we moved here because it was so late in the year. They high school just gave us some worksheets for him to do so that he’s ready for freshman year in the fall. If you want to take him on a trips to the zoo and to the aquarium, I don’t think he’d object. He loves animals and it would be better than having him stay inside all summer playing on the computer.”
“Cool. I’d like to do that. I was thinking, my family is having a reunion on Cape Cod over the week of the Fourth of July. I wasn’t going to go because of staying with Kevin, but my mom told me to let you know that he’s invited. If you say it’s okay, I’d like to bring him.”
“It sounds fine to me, but we should ask Kevin.”
“Did you say he’s going to be a freshman in the fall? Shouldn’t he be a sophomore?”
“Agewise, yes. But he missed so much school when he was little that he had to repeat kindergarten. It’s odd, he’s always been one of the oldest in his class, but also one of the smallest.”
Since it was my first night we had kind of a celebration. Dinner was steaks and salad and corn on the cob. And I got to know Kevin. He was a really sweet kid. He was funny and told good stories. We even liked a lot of the same TV shows. It was weird though. On one level I knew I was talking to a teenager who was an honor student and was starting high school, on another I wanted to cut his meat for him.
When dinner was over, we cleaned up and then watched TV for a while. At around 10:00, Terri told Kevin that it was time for bed. Because he had an early morning practice at the gymnastics studio tomorrow. So, he got up kissed his mom good night and then came over and gave me a kiss on the cheek too. My heart melted.
A little after that, I got up and went to my room to get ready for bed. I changed into my typical sleepwear of a tank top and running shorts. I got into the habit of wearing this to bed so that I could go for a five mile run as soon as I woke up and then shower after that.
The bathroom for Kevin and me was located between our rooms with doors that went to our respective rooms. When I got to the bathroom I began unpacking my stuff. There were two medicine chests. Kevin’s was on the left, mine on the right. So I put my things in my medicine chest and then began to look around for a place to put my hair dryer. I opened the doors under the sink and found a diaper genie and a bag of Pampers Underjams and a bag of Goodnites. I’d kind of forgotten about that.
The next morning I got up for my usual run. I wasn’t really familiar with the town so I took it slow to have a look around. The houses were all big and nicely landscaped. The O’Neil’s was no different. Actually, it looked a bit like the town I grew up in. In my neighborhood, the houses were a bit newer, post-war, but just as nice. (I don’t make a fuss about it, because that’s how my parents brought me up, but my mom and dad have a lot of money.)
I got back home and took my shower. I was standing by the mirror in my bathrobe (another habit from college) brushing my teeth when Kevin’s door opened and he walked in, actually kind of toddled, staring at the floor. He was wearing a tee shirt with Angry Bird on it and drooping below that was a very wet Goodnite.
“Hi, Kevin,” I said. He gasped and looked up when he heard my voice.
“Sorry! Sorry! Sorry!” he said as he retreated. “I forgot you were here.”
“It’s okay, sweetie, mistakes happen. I should have thrown the bolt on your door. I forgot to.” Then I heard him trip and fall and whimper a little. I stepped into his room and saw him lying on the ground crying.
“Are you all right?” I asked.
“Yes… no… I don’t know,” he sobbed. “I banged my knee…and you saw me like this…and…and…”
“Oh Kevin, don’t worry I knew about the pullups, remember, your mom told me. Does your knee hurt a lot?”
“No, I guess it was just everything and I wanted to make a good impression, now you think I’m a baby.”
I knelt down next to him and put my arm over his shoulder and he cried a little while. While he was crying I looked around the room, really for the first time. I was a bit distracted the last time I was here. It looked like a typical teenage boy’s bedroom. He liked sci fi, so there were some movie posters, pennants for the Mets and the Giants, a couple gymnastics trophies and medals, some framed certificates from school, a desk with a computer on it, a little TV, lots of books in neat rows on his bookshelves. On the top of his dresser sat stuffed dog and a teddy bear that looked to have been lovingly preserved since childhood. Nothing unusual, except that it was much cleaner than my brother kept his room. Then I looked at the bed and I noticed that it had rails on it like you’d see on a hospital bed.
Once he calmed down I said, “Give me a minute to finish up and then the bathroom is all yours and I’ll see you at breakfast.”
When I got to the kitchen I told Terri about what happened and she said, “Well, it sounds like you did a good job handling that little crisis. Sorry for the excitement this early.”
I asked her about the rails on the bed. “Oh, those. We’ve had those so long I forgot about them. Kevin sleepwalks sometimes, or at least he did. It didn’t seem safe to lock the door so we had the rails installed on the bed at our last house. I don’t know if he needs them or not any more, but he likes to put them up sometimes. I think it makes him feel secure. He’s had a rough year, losing his dad, moving and all, I pretend not to notice when he uses them.”
Then she chuckled, “Did you notice the teddy bear and the puppy on the dresser.” I nodded yes. “Well,” she said, “sometimes after he’s had a really rough day, I notice that those guys are in different positions in the morning.”
I smiled and said, “That is so cute… shhh, here he comes.”
Kevin sat down at the breakfast counter and looked down at his placemat and said, “Sorry about before. It won’t happen…”
I said, “Kev, I told you it was all right. Don’t make a big deal about it.” I reached over and ruffled his hair and was rewarded by an absolutely adorable smile.
“So,” I asked, “what are we doing today?”
Terri looked at Kevin, raised her eyebrows, and nodded her head at Kevin.
Kevin swallowed and squeaked, “Carrie, could you bring me to gymnastics? It’s on the other side of town and I’d ride my bike, but it’s supposed to rain today?”
“Sure, I’d love to. Can I stay and watch or is it a closed practice?”
Kevin started to smile and began speaking really fast. “You can watch, there are always parents and brothers and sisters watching. Mom usually brings me and sticks around but she can’t today because she’s getting ready for the trip.” And then his face dropped and he just said, “Oh…”
“What’s the matter?” Terri asked
“Adults have to sign in and write how they are related to the gymnasts. They don’t want pervs watching the little kids doing gymnastics.”
“So?” I asked.
“We’re not related,” he answered. “You’d have to put you were my babysitter and I’m fifteen. I don’t want people to know I have a babysitter.”
“Well, I could say I’m your cousin. It might be true, my mom’s maiden name is O’Neal. She spells it differently, but you never know. So, we’ll tell everyone that I’m your cousin and I’m staying with you for the summer to save some money until I leave for med school. How’s that sound?”
He brightened up, “That sound great, Cousin Carrie!”
“Just ‘Carrie’ if you don’t mind. ‘Cousin Carrie’ sounds like something out of a horror novel.”
We hammered out plans for what we’d do after gymnastics - lunch, a movie, and then home - and about 20 minutes later were on our way to the gymnastics studio in Terri’s Mercedes two-seater, which I’d get to use for the whole summer. You can’t say this job didn’t have perks.
Kevin hopped out of the car and grabbed my hand and practically dragged me to the front door. A group of moms were standing around after signing in and a boy about my age came over to us and said, "Hi Kevin, who’s your friend?
“Hey Tom, this is my cousin Carrie. Is it okay if she watches practice?” Kevin responded.
“Of course it is. Let me get her full name.” Then he turned to me and said, “Hi, Carrie. My name’s Tom. I’m the assistant coach. Could I get your full name?”
“Carolyn Sullivan,” I replied.
“Relationship to Kevin?”
“Cell phone number?”
“Nice try,” I laughed.
“You can’t blame a guy for trying. Kevin, we’re starting with floor exercises. Go warm up and then come over to the left mat. I want you to show some of the stuff we worked on last time to the little guys.”
Kevin trotted off and Tom said, “Kevin is like having another coach here. The little guys love him because he’s not much bigger than them and he’s always willing to help. I guess he’s less intimidating. Next year, when he’s sixteen, we’re going to offer him a job.”
“Is he that good?”
“Well, he’s not Olympic caliber, but I could see him doing well in high school and even collegiate competition if he sticks with it.”
The practice began and I was blown away with what I saw. I got to see the back flip Terri told me about, and then some. It was also cute to see all these little boys crowding around Kevin and him very patiently showing them what to do. At that moment I saw the young man and not the little boy.
When practice ended, he ran over to me sweating and flushed with excitement. “What did you think?” he asked.
“You were awesome.”
“Thanks. It was a good practice. I just gotta shower and then we can get going. I’ll be right back.”
About 15 minutes later. I had the little boy again. Kevin came out of the locker room with his hair neatly combed and gelled. He was wearing a powder blue golf shirt from Brooks Brothers, a pair of plaid cargo shorts, and boat shoes. I think he thought it looked sophisticated, but it really looked like the way my mom dressed my little brother to go to church during the summer.
When he came over I said, “My, you look handsome.”
“Why, thank you,” he replied, “shall we make for the egress?”
“Sure, why not,” I laughed and we were on our way to the mall.
We were on our way to the mall when my cell phone went off. “Kevin,” I said, “could you see who it is? My phone’s in the front pocket of my bag.”
“Sure. It’s Mom. Do you want to pretend we’re not here?”
“Just answer it,” I laughed.
“Carolyn Sullivan’s Office, how shall I direct your call?…Yeah, it went really well…We’re on our way now…It starts at 2:15…I don’t know, about 5:30 I guess…I’ll ask her.”
“Carrie, Mom wants to know if we could stop off at the store on the way home. She said she’ll email you the shopping list.”
“Sure, no problem,” I answered.
“She said no problem…I’ll ask.”
"Hey Carrie, do you like Chinese food?
“Loves it…sure…no problem…love you too…Bye, Mommy.”
“Mommy?” I thought, but I didn’t say anything.
“Hey Kevin, while you’ve got my phone out, why don’t you put in your contact info.”
“OK. Can I get yours when we get home. I ran the battery down so I left my phone home to recharge.”
“Now, why is this bag freakin’ huge?”
“Oh, that’s kind of funny. My oldest sister gave my middle sister a baby shower about a year ago and I ordered her a diaper bag online, but I goofed and I got two of the same one, so I kept this one for myself.”
“Really, it’s a diaper bag?”
“I thought Mom was weird.”
“Well look at it. It doesn’t really look that much like a diaper bag. See, no bunnies or duckies. But it’s big enough for me to carry my ipad, a couple of school books, my water bottle, even a change of clothes if I think I might have to stay over somewhere.”
“I guess that makes sense…Wow, I’ve never seen the mall this crowded.”
We had just turned into the parking lot and it was packed. Cars everywhere. “Wow is right,” I said, “some of the moms at the gymnastics studio were saying there’s this thing called Kid-Expo going on. It’s like an indoor carnival. I guess with the crummy weather everybody and his mother decided to come here…Hey maybe you could get your face painted.”
“Not likely,” he said, “Do you think the movie will be sold out?”
“Not to worry, I already bought the tickets on line and besides it’s PG13. These little tykes won’t be seeing Avengers 7 or whatever we’re seeing.”
We parked the car in the garage and headed for the door to the mall. When we got inside there were people everywhere. Booths were set up in the middle of the mall and there were jugglers and clowns and on a stage a group of acrobats were performing. “Hey look, face painting,” I said.
“Fine, be that way. You’d better stick close, if we get separated it will take forever for us to find each other.” As we moved through the mall Kevin kept getting bumped into and he’d call out for me to wait up. I nearly lost him a couple of times.
After a while I said, “Look, maybe we should hold hands. I’m afraid we’re going to lose each other.”
“Yeah, I guess so. This is hard and I don’t really stand out in a crowd.”
So, off we went holding hands. I have to admit, I kind of liked it. The crowd thinned out as we moved further into the mall, but Kevin still held onto my hand. At one point we passed a wall that was polished steel and I could see our reflection. There I was dressed in a skirt and polo shirt, with a diaper bag over my shoulder holding the hand of a little boy. We both had the “map of Ireland” on our faces as my granddad would have said. If I were a little older people probably would have thought I was his mommy. I kind of liked that too.
We got to the restaurant, and surprisingly it was nearly empty. The hostess seated us right away and Kevin excused himself to use the men’s room. While he was gone, the waitress came with two menus. An adult one for me, and the kids’ coloring book menu for Kevin, complete with crayons. I was about to say something when Kevin slid in next to me and the waitress said she’d be right back.
“I’ll let you see this when I’m done,” I said, “sorry about the kiddie menu.”
“Eh, I’m used to it by now. Besides I know what I want. I can’t really order off the regular menu.”
“Oh, yeah, right.”
The waitress came back and I let Kevin order first. He asked for a small salad with grilled chicken and a coke. He told the waitress that she had to be sure that she didn’t give him any croutons or bread because that would make him sick. I ordered the same as him, but I asked for an unsweetened iced tea.
While we were waiting for the food to come Kevin started asking me questions.
“Are you really going to Johns Hopkins in the fall?”
“Where’d you go before?”
“You must be really smart.”
“Why do you sound surprised?”
“How many brothers and sisters do you have.”
“There are six of us. I have two older brothers, two older sisters and one younger brother.”
“What do they do?”
“The older boys are doctors, the girls are both raising their families, and my little brother is in his second year at the Naval Academy.”
“Wow, I think I might want to go there. Could I meet him, do you think?”
Now it was my turn to ask him some questions.
“Funny you should ask that. I wanted to know if you wanted to come with my family on a reunion/vacation on Cape Cod the first week in July? Your mom said she was Okay with her it but it was up to you.”
“Gee, I’d like to, but I don’t know.”
“Is it the night time stuff your worried about?”
“Kind of, plus what are you going to tell people, I’m the little boy your babysitting? That would be embarrassing.”
“Well first off, nobody is going to know about your sleeping issues. I’ve got it worked so that you and I will have adjoining rooms. My mom spoke to your mom, it turns out they know each other. So, we’re going to say you’re the son of one of my mom’s friends who is staying with us while she’s out of the country. We won’t have to use the “B” word.”
“Okay then, lets do it.”
“Excellent!” I said. And at the same moment the food arrived.
My iced tea was in one of the huge cups that you typically see in “casual eating” establishment. Kevin’s drink was in a little plastic cup with snap on lid and built in straw. Sponge Bob and Patrick Star were smiling out at us.
“Do you want me to ask her to bring you your drink in a normal cup?” I asked.
“Don’t worry about it. I have to watch how much I drink during the day too otherwise I keep having to go to the bathroom.”
We ate our salads. As we were finishing up. Kevin said, “Uh oh. I think there were some croutons in my salad.”
I called over the waitress and asked and she said, “Yeah, sorry about that. I forgot what you said about the croutons so I picked them off the plate before I served.”
I looked at Kevin. “Is this going to be a problem?”
“Maybe, I’m not sure, it’s been so long since I had anything with gluten.”
“Please get the manager,” I said.
When I explained what happened, he looked really angry. “My daughter has the same condition. I’ve told the staff they have to be really careful. I am so sorry. The meal is on the house and next time you’re here it will be on us, too. I really hope this doesn’t make you sick.”
“Well,” Kevin said, “I feel okay right now, but we’ll let you know.”
We got up and left. In the back of the restaurant I could see the manager reprimanding the waitress.
Once again we were struggling through the mall. I said to Kevin, “You going to be all right? What happens when you get the wrong food?”
“It’s been a while, but stomach cramps, sometimes diarrhea. I feel okay, I’d rather not talk about it.”
“Sure. We’ve got about an hour to kill be for the movie. Anything you want to do? When I go malling with my girl friends we usually try on shoes. Interested?”
“Yuck. We could go to the game room over at Dave and Busters.”
“Your loss, they have some fine looking shoe store around here, but the game room it is.” We went in and I got us a swipe card and put $20 on it. I figured that should be enough to keep us busy for an hour. We wandered around and came to skeeball.
“Wow, I haven’t played this since I was in high school. I used to be really good.” I said.
“I bet you I could beat you.” Kevin replied.
“Oh yeah, how much?”
“I don’t really have any money. How about if I win, you have to mow the lawn for me on Saturday. It’s the one chore that I really don’t like to do.”
“Okay and if I win, you have to get your face painted.”
“What’s with you and face painting?” He asked then added, “Fine. You’re on.”
“Best two out of three?” I asked.
I won the first game, but only be 20 points. He won the second by 10 points. Then I demolished him on the final. Beating him by fifty points. He was a good sport about it and said, “Do I get to choose what they paint? I don’t want to get painted up like a fairy princess or something.”
“Sure, I bet they could do Darth Maul or something if you want.”
“That wouldn’t be so bad. How long to I have to wear this?”
“Always set your terms before you place a bet. But I’ll let you wash it off when we get home.”
“Let’s do it.”
So we went over to the booth where a couple of girls were doing face painting to raise money for 4H. They had about 10 styles to choose from. Well really two if you were a boy and didn’t want to be too cutesy. Kevin went with the tiger. “I like it,” I said, “it matches your hair.”
“Swell. At least nobody is going to recognize me like this. Lets go to the movie.”
I collected our tickets at the kiosk and in we went. I got us some snacks, Sno-caps for him and Junior mints for me and we went to the theater. The usher collecting the tickets smiled at Kevin and said, “Hi ya, tiger, enjoy the show.” Then he said to me, “It’s PG13, but I took my little brother to see it last week and he’s almost 8. It’s not that intense. It shouldn’t give him any bad dreams.” I smiled and said thanks, Kevin rolled his eyes.
We had our pick of seats and took two about midway down on the aisle. We got through about a dozen trailers then the movie started. Everything was going fine until about half way through the film. Then Kevin whispered, “Carrie, I don’t feel so good. Could we go?”
“Yeah, of course.” I grabbed my bag, took Kevin by the hand and we headed for the door.
The usher we spoke to before was standing by another theater and saw us. He called out, “Everything, Ok?”
“He’s not feeling well.” I called back.
“There is a family restroom to the left when you get to the lobby.”
We got there just in time. Kevin ran in, shut the door behind him and… Well I just waited for him to come out. I heard the flush, the sound of him washing his hands. Then he came looking a little shaken. I think under the orange and black paint he was probably a little pale. “Feeling better?” I asked.
“Feeling better. May be we could catch the end of the movie another time?”
“Sure. Let’s go home.”
“Mom wanted you to stop at the store, remember.”
“Yeah, but I can take you home first.”
“I’ll be okay.”
He nodded yes so I said, “Okay, let’s go to the store.”
We went out to the car and drove to the local Target which was also their local supermarket. I asked Kevin if he wanted to wait in the car and he said he’d come in with me. I got out my iphone to see the list, put my bag in the seat of the shopping cart and we did our shopping.
I thought Kevin was looking better as we did our shopping. I got everything on the list. I let Kevin add a couple of little treats to make up for missing the movie. We got on line and the cashier was returning the debit card Terri had given me when Kevin whispered, “Carrie, it’s starting again.”
Fortunately it was only a couple of yards to the bathroom. Kevin bolted for it then stopped and hunched over. I got there a couple of seconds later. He looked up at me with tears in his eyes. “I didn’t make it,” he whispered.
“Oh, sweetie,” I said as I rubbed his back, “let’s get you cleaned up.” I led him over to the family restroom and told him to wait there until I got back.
The cashier who had taken care of us came over and said, “Is your little brother okay?”
I told her what happened. She gave me a kind little smile and said, “Why don’t you put your shopping cart over there and get what you need. I’ll ring you up separately in customer services so you don’t have to wait on line.”
“Thanks,” I said. “Where do you have the pullups?”
As I walked over to the baby section, I took out my iphone and called Terri. When I filled her in on everything, she let out a puff of breath and said, “Sounds like pullups are a good idea until he gets through this. He won’t like it, but he won’t give you a fight. This has happened before but not since he was about 10. Get him the 4t/5t size. They actually fit him, I just stopped using them in favor of the goodnites because he thought the pull-ups were too babyish. I’ll call his doctor, he said to bring him right in if anything like this happens. If I send you the directions, can you meet me there?”
“Sure,” I said. "I’ll see you in a little bit.
I looked around for the design that would be least offensive to Kevin, and when I figured out that didn’t exist, I got the ones with Sully from Monsters Inc. I grabbed a package of wipes and then went over to boys’ wear and found a pair of gray gym shorts that I figured should fit him.
My friendly cashier was waiting for me at customer services. She asked what happened and when I told her she said, “I think I know the waitress you’re talking about. She wouldn’t do it on purpose, but she wouldn’t really care that she did it either.”
“Well,” I said, “her manager was ripping her a new one when I left.”
“Good, she deserves it. Has your brother started school, yet?”
I misunderstood her question and I said, “He’s starting at St. Albert’s in September.” St. Albert the Great is the name of the local Catholic Church and their school goes from kindergarten to high school.
“Oh great. My kids went there. Mrs. Fisher is the kindergarten teacher. He’ll love her.”
“Oh, super,” I said. But thought, “Wow, she thinks he’s not even a kindergartener yet. Kevin would not be happy.”
“Thanks for all your help, but I’d better go take care of Kevin.”
I knocked on the door and said, “It’s me, pal, let me in.” Kevin opened the door a crack and let me in. His tears had caused his tiger make-up to get all smeared and he just looked like a miserable little boy.
“I called your mom and she said we should go to your doctor after I get you cleaned up, Okay? Let’s get you out of that dirty stuff and into something clean, okay?” I realized I was the same tone to talk to him that I used when I was trying to coax one of my little nieces or nephews into doing something. Kevin didn’t seem to notice.
He just nodded his head.
“Okay,” I said, “Lets take off your shirt to keep it clean. Can you step out of your shoes?…good…now lets take off the shorts.” They were dirty but not too bad.
“Now the boxers.” They were a complete write-off. “Do you need to go anymore?”
He shook his head. “Okay, then. Let me clean you off.” I broke open the wipes and cleaned up his bottom and then did the front. He was just standing there sobbing quietly while I did it.
I tried soothing him, “You’re being very brave about this…No really, you are…” When he was clean, I opened up a pullup. When he saw this the tears really started up again. “I know, I know, but your mom and I think this is for the best until you’re better. Okay?”
He sucked in a breath and nodded his head again. “Good boy.” I said.
He stepped into the pullup and let me slide it up into place. He looked really miserable and his face was a mess. “Let’s get the makeup off, okay?”
He nodded again and I grabbed him under the arms and put him up on the changing counter. I was surprised how light he actually was. I had remembered I had some makeup removing wipes in my bag, so I dug into it to get them and I saw that the stuffed puppy I had brought the first day was still in there. I thought, “maybe this will help.”
I held up the puppy and made its right paw wave at Kevin and he smiled a little. “Okay, progress,” I thought. I gave Kevin the puppy and went to work on his face. I looked down and saw he was holding it to his to his chest, stroking it like it was a real puppy and I felt my heart give a little jump. I really was beginning to love this kid.
When he was all cleaned up, I rinsed off his shorts, tossed the boxers and got him dressed again. I cleaned up the counter a bit and put the damp shorts in the waterproof section of my bag so that they could be washed when we got home. Having a diaper bag paid off yet again.
I said to Kevin, “you ready to go?”
He just nodded again.
“Okay, let’s get our stuff and get going.”
The cashier, Agnes was waiting by the door and said, “I’ll help you bring your stuff to your car. You just take care of Kevin.”
“Thanks,” I said to Agnes. Then to Kevin, “You want to ride?”
He just looked at me, so I scooped him up and carried him on my hip out to the car. He cuddled the puppy the whole way.
After I thanked Agnes for being so helpful, she said, “Don’t worry sweetheart. I’ve had little boys with messy pants myself.”
Then she said to Kevin, “Don’t feel too bad about this, accidents happen. You’ll see, you’ll out grow this by the time you start big kid school.”
I smiled at her, put Kevin in the car, our stuff in the trunk and then headed off to the doctor.
As we drove to Kevin’s doctor’s office, Kevin finally spoke up. “Carrie…this whole thing was pretty…uh…thanks for…you know…for being cool about the whole thing,” he whispered.
A bunch of responses ran through my mind. “Don’t worry, I’ve changed my brothers’ and sisters’ kids plenty of times.” or “No big deal, these things happen.” or “It’s okay, you don’t have anything I haven’t seen before.” But I settled on, “Hey, Kevin, that’s what friends are for.” I glanced over at Kevin and could tell he liked that answer.
The office was attached to the Doctor’s house, a pretty common thing in suburbs, but it confuses people from the city. When we pulled into the driveway, Terri was already there and came over to meet us. “Hi Kiddo,” she said, “had a rough day, huh?” Kevin just looked up at her and nodded his head.
“Come on, lets see Doctor Fisher.”
Terri led Kevin into the office and I followed up. It was empty except for the middle aged receptionist who looked up and waved “hi” to Kevin. Then she said, “bring him right into the exam room. The doctor will be there in a second.”
Kevin and Terri went back and I took a seat. Once they were inside the receptionist looked up and said, “Hi, you must be Carrie. I’m Beth. Terri told me what happened. Poor Kevin, he’s such a nice kid. I feel awful for him.”
“I know. We were having such a good time too before he got sick.”
“He’s a trooper though. He’ll be fine. So, Terri tells me you’re spending the summer with Kevin before you go to med school.”
“Uh, yeah,” I said.
“That is great! Hopkins, right? My husband went there. You’re gonna have a rough couple of years, but believe me it’s worth it.”
“Oh sorry, I’m Beth Fisher, the doctor’s my husband.”
“Let me ask you something; Terri says she hired you through the Cassell agency. How do you like them? The reason I’m asking is Tom and I are thinking of doing a cruise next year and we were hoping to bring an au pair with us to help with the kids.”
“I liked them. I think they’ve treated me fairly, but they really put me through the wringer before they would let me go on an interview; references, school transcripts, background checks. the paperwork! Plus I had to get certified in all sorts of stuff, like cpr, adult, child and infant, then advanced first aid. They gave me a certificate that says I’m qualified as an assistant practical nurse, whatever that means.”
"Well that sounds good. I’ve heard good things about that agency from people who’ve hired through it, but I wanted to get the caregiver’s perspective.
“How do you like Kevin and Terri so far?”
“They’ve been great.”
“Kevin’s a little doll, isn’t he?”
“Well, yeah. I think he’s a real sweetheart. But he’s so small. The cashier at Target thought he was a pre-kindergartner.”
“That’s dopey. If I didn’t know how old he was I’d guess he was a well behaved 8-year old.”
“I thought so too. She was nice but seemed a little daft.”
“That’s a word you don’t hear much.” She laughed. “Wait, was this Agnes?”
“Yeah, how’d you know?”
“Nice but daft, that’s her. We were in grade school together. She always got terrible grades. Her husband’s a great guy though and her kids are all really bright. But, how about you, how’d you decide on medicine.”
“Well, my mom and dad are both doctors. Mom’s a pediatrician and her office was set up kind of like this, attached to the house. It let her keep up her practice while my siblings and I were small. Dad’s a psychiatrist. Both of my older brothers are doctors, one of my sisters is too, but she put her practice on hold now that she’s got babies at home. So, you could say it’s in my blood.”
“You want to be a pediatrician?”
“Did Terri tell you?”
“No, you just seem really caring and I’ve noticed that girls like you who want to be doctors gravitate toward pediatrics.”
We were chatting like this when Beth’s phone buzzed. She picked it up and said, “Sure, I’ll ask her to go back.” Then to me she said, “Tom, 'scuse me, Doctor Fisher, would like you to join them in the exam room.” She chuckled, "he says I should refer to him as “Doctor Fisher in the office because it sounds more professional, then he tells all the kids to call him 'Tom.'Come on, I’ll bring you back”
She opened the door and we headed back. The hallway and the exam rooms, like the waiting room were brightly colored with pictures of scenes from nursery rhymes and fairy tales. It was all super cheery. She tapped on the door and a man’s voice called for us to come in.
As I entered, the sweet smell of baby powder almost overpowered me. Straight ahead of me was a stand up scale that looked like an antique and next to it was Terri seated in a straight back chair. There was a cabinet covered with drawers on top of which were jars and bottles of vaseline, baby oil, diaper rash ointment. Next to that was a little shelf unit with different sizes and styles of disposable diapers, everything from tiny ones for preemies to ones that might have fit a small adult. Standing between me and the exam table and really dominating the room was Doctor Fisher.
Doctor Fisher just looked like Santa Clause in a lab coat; long white beard, wire frame glasses, red open collared shirt, and suspenders covered with Disney characters. He greeted me with a big smile and said, “So, you’re the great and wonderful Carrie. Kevin has been telling me all about you.”
I extended my hand and said, “How do you do, Doctor Fisher”
He took my little hand in both his huge mitts and said, “I do great! I’m glad to meet you. But, please call me Tom or Doc Tom if you want to be formal, everyone does.”
I heard Beth snicker as she left the room. “What? What? Something’s wrong with that woman. Twenty years of marriage and four kids, and I still don’t understand her.”
He stepped over to shut the door and I could now see Kevin sitting on the exam table. He was wearing nothing but the pull up I dressed him in earlier. He looked so small and vulnerable. He was Irish pale with just a sprinkling of freckles across his shoulders. He gave me a shy smile and waved. I winked at him and waved back. He looked much less miserable, almost, but not quite cheerful. Doc Tom definitely had a way with children.
Tom said, “Terri tells me you’re going to be spending the summer with Kevin. So, I thought you should hear the instructions I’m giving directly from me. I trust Terri to pass this along to you, but sometimes it’s best for the person who is going to be looking after the patient to hear the instructions straight from the horses mouth. Plus, I never pass up an opportunity to meet a pretty girl.”
“Okay,” I said, “what’s up?”
Doc Tom said, “Let me grab you a chair from the hall.”
“That’s okay,” I said and I hopped up on the exam table next to Kevin. I mussed up his hair and smiled at him. He smiled back. He was getting more like his old self.
“So, here’s the story. Kevin, I want you to take it easy for the rest of the day and for tomorrow. You don’t have to stay in bed, but just hang out at home. Watch some movies or something. When you get home I think you should try to eat something.”
“We were going to have Chinese,” Kevin said.
“Where are you getting it?” he asked.
“Ming Moon,” Terri said, “they have a gluten free menu.”
“Oh, yeah. I’ve gotten it from there too. It’s good stuff. Okay, keep it mild. Wanton soup would be fine. Maybe some steamed dumplings and noodle with chicken. Nothing fried. I want you to drink plenty of fluids. Terri,” he said, “get him some Pedialyte. He’s a little dehydrated from the diarrhea and it’s the best thing for that.”
“Sure thing,” Terri replied.
“Kevin, you’re probably not going to be thrilled about this, but I think you should wear the pullups until Sunday morning.”
“Why?” Kevin whined.
“What did you say you had before, about half a second’s warning? You don’t have to use them, but I think everyone will be happier if you don’t get caught short.”
Kevin sighed, “I guess.”
"Terri, you’re leaving when, Tuesday?
“Okay then, Carrie, you’ll need to bring Kevin back on Next Friday. Talk to Beth, she’ll set up a time. We’ll also have Terri and you sign some forms authorizing you to make medical decisions for Kevin.”
“Sure,” I replied.
“Now if everything goes back to normal by Sunday morning, there is no reason why you can’t do your gymnastics demonstration on Monday.”
“Oh, great!” Kevin said.
Doc Tom looked at me and said, “My oldest boy is at the same gymnastics school. He worships the ground Kevin walks on. Have you seen Kevin do his stuff? He’s awesome.”
“Yeah, I was there this morning. He was pretty incredible.”
I looked over and saw Kevin smile and start to blush a bit.
“So, Kevin, you get dressed. Lets the rest of us go and see Beth about making an appointment,” he said.
We left Kevin behind to get dressed as Tom walked us to the waiting room.
The waiting room was still empty and Tom said to Beth, “I’m not working you too hard am I?”
“It’s been crazy like this all day. I haven’t had a chance to catch my breath,” she replied rolling her eyes.
“Yeah right. Would you make an appointment for Kevin for Friday, oh joy of my life? Oh and could you get the medical consent forms and your seal for Terri to sign? Carrie will be in loco parentis while she’s out of the country. Beth is a notary, so we can make this all legal and official.”
“Of course I will, oh pain in my… So what time’s good for you? Friday afternoons in the summer as you can see are pretty quiet. We’d close shop, but Tom does Friday and Saturday on-call service for a Jewish friend and we take our days off midweek.”
“Earlier would be better than later,” I replied.
“Let’s say noon then.”
“Noon it is” as I entered the appointment into my iphone.
By now Kevin was out and ready to go.
“Bye, guys,” Tom said. “Will we see you in Church on Sunday?”
“We’ll be there. Tom, Beth, thanks for everything.” Terri responded.
We made our good-byes and headed out.
Terri said to me, “Would you mind swinging by the store to pick up the Pedialtye and then stopping off at Ming Moon, it’s down the road from Target and I’ll take Kevin home in my car?”
“No problem.” I responded.
“Great. I’ll call in the order so it will be ready for you to pick up.”
We went our separate ways. It took me longer to find Ming Moon than it should have. So, when I got back to the house, Kevin had already settled into the couch with his feet on the hassock and was watching TV. He was wearing a Captain America tee-shirt, the gym shorts I bought him, and a pair of slippers that looked like little moose heads, complete with antlers. I could just see the pull-up through the leg hole of his shorts.
“Cute slippers. Could you give me a hand with the groceries?” I asked.
“What’s it worth to you?” he replied as he hopped up and trotted through the kitchen door out to the attached garage.
The gym shorts were actually a little too big on him and they started to slip down as he reached into the trunk. I said, “Uh, Kevin, I see London, I see France, I see Kevin’s…” He stopped short and and pulled up his shorts and tightened the string.
He was blushing a little and said, “Yikes that could have been embarrassing if somebody saw me.”
“What, I’m not somebody?”
“You know what I mean. Somebody outside the family.”
I smiled to myself at that. “I’m family,” I thought. I liked that a lot.
We had dinner which was really pretty good, but I usually go for the spicier stuff. Both Terri and Kevin said they also go for the spicier stuff usually, but with what the doctor said, they kept it mild.
After we cleaned up. We watched DVDs of the first season of Walking Dead for a couple of episodes. Then Terri said, “Kevin, you probably should go to bed. The doctor said to take it easy tonight.”
He was about to protest, but said, “Yeah, I’m pretty tired. 'Night.” And like the previous night he kissed us both good night.
Terri said, “Need any help?”
“Nope, I’m good.”
“Stay in bed tomorrow until either Terri or I come to get you. Okay?”
He rolled his eyes and said, “Yes, Mommy.”
He went upstairs and a couple minutes later we heard the toilet flush, the sink run and then quiet.
Terri looked at me and said, “You, my dear, had a day from hell. Do you want a drink?”
“I wouldn’t mind a little white wine.” I replied.
“Pinot or Chardonnay?”
She got up and quickly returned with a nice bottle of wine, two glasses and some humus and chips. She jumped up on the couch and pulled her legs under her.
“Kevin told me everything you did for him. You were really kind. Thanks so much.”
“No, really, not everyone would have been so nice. I’m glad we’ve got you for the summer.”
“Thanks, it wasn’t really all bad though. Did Kevin tell you about his face painting?”
“What? No. Tell me!” she laughed.
I told her about the bet as I got out my iphone and showed her the pictures I took. She was nearly hysterical looking at them.
“Could you send those to me? Especially the one with him growling? I might use that for blackmail and threaten him with putting it in the yearbook when he’s a senior.”
“Consider it done.” I said as I sent them to her.
“He is usually so concerned about seeming mature. It was nice to see him acting like a kid again. Maybe I’ll get some prints of those made.”
We talked for about two hours and finished off two bottles of wine. I found out about how her husband died, where they lived before coming to town, what she was doing in London.
Then, I said, “I think it’s time for me to go to bed.” We wished each other good night and I went to my room and changed into my running clothes for the morning. I opened the door to our shared bathroom and went in to brush my teeth. Kevin’s door was still open so I tip-toed over to shut it. In the glow of the nightlight, I saw Kevin asleep in bed with the bars up on both sides. He was facing the door and I saw he had a teddy bear and two stuffed puppies cuddled under his arm and his thumb in his mouth. I silently shut the door and went to bed myself.
I got up early like I usually do and went for my run. It was misty out and the weather report said that it would start raining around 9 and rain through Sunday night. The weekend was a washout.
I got back to the house at about 8:00 and found Terri in the kitchen dressed for the office. She was finishing up a cup of coffee as I walked in. She said,“Good morning! How was your run?”
“Good,” I replied, “but it’s kind of gross out. Are you working today?”
She sighed, “I had a message from London on my phone when I woke up this morning. There is an “issue” (here she made air quotes) that needs to be taken care of immediately. I should be back by lunch time. I really hate working on Saturdays.”
“Well, at least you’re not missing out on a beach day.”
“No, I guess I won’t have too much chance later in the summer either. C’est la vie.”
Then I remembered last night and I told her about Kevin and the stuffed animals.
She smiled and chuckled. “I’ll bet they’ll be hidden when you wake him up.”
“Probably. I’ll knock before I go in and give him a minute or two to protect his dignity.”
“Well, I better get going. The sooner I’m there, the sooner I’m done. There are a bunch of board games in the family room and some DVD’s Kevin hasn’t seen yet and he’s got the video game so I think you’ll be able to keep him entertained. I should probably start pushing him to do his summer reading, but I think I’ll let him get a pass on that today. I’ll bring in lunch. If I’m going to be later than 1:00 I’ll call.”
“Bye. Oh, when do you think I should get Kevin up?”
“Give him until 10:00 and then rattle his cage.”
After she left, I looked at the clock and figured I could give my mom a call. I got in the habit of calling her on Saturday mornings when I was in college. It was my subtle way of letting her know that I wasn’t out late drinking the night before.
She picked up on the second ring and said, “Good morning, Carrie, I hoped I’d hear from you today. How’s it going?”
“Hi Mom,” I said and filled her in on the details of yesterday.
“Poor kid,” she said, “it sounds like you handled it well though. How’s he this morning?”
“He’s still in bed, I’m letting him sleep until 10. He needs his rest, doctor’s orders.”
“Oooh, doctor’s orders. Better do it then,” she laughed.
When I was a little girl anytime my dad wanted to get me to do something I didn’t want to, his argument ender was “doctor’s orders.” “Eat your vegetables, doctor’s orders.” “Time for bed, doctor’s orders.” “Clean your room, doctor’s orders.” It became kind of a running joke in the family.
“What’s he like?” she asked.
“Kevin? I really like him. He kind of reminds me of Mikey when he was 8.”
“But he’s 15.”
“Yeah, he’s 15. If you talk to him and ignore the fact that his voice sounds like a little boy’s, you know you’re talking to a young man. But if you look at him, you want to ask him if he wants an ice cream. He seems just like a well behaved little kid.”
“What do you think of his mom?”
"She’s great too. She’s had a rough year. It sounds like her husband was a great guy and losing him really threw both of them for a loop. But she is adores